New Report Outlines How to Engage with Local Governments on the Climate Emission Reductions Possible through Promotion of Plant-Based Diets

As engaged practitioners, our first level of engagement is with ourselves, our families, and our communities.

But, with our stable practice, open hearts, and skillful means, we can also engage with government in a manner that can help bring about change to protect the earth.  Having access to accurate information and clear policy guidance is a big help and our friends at Friends of the Earth and the Responsible Purchasing Network have released a very helpful report on why local governments should promote more local and plant-based eating and how they could act to do that.

The report MEAT OF THE MATTER: A Municipal Guide to Climate-Friendly Food Purchasing, by Friends of the Earth and the Responsible Purchasing Network was published in December, 2017.   It can be accessed here  Meat of the Matter. MunicipalReport_ko_120117  

The report outlines the issues in a concise way and offers a process that local governments can follow to address climate-friendly food in their climate planning.   It gives the context,

Municipalities across the country are using their economic clout, political power and cultural influence to fight climate change. They are establishing ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets and pursuing aggressive strategies, such as requiring the purchase of 100 percent renewable energy and fuel-efficient vehicles. But one critically important sector that accounts for about one fourth of global greenhouse gas emissions has largely been ignored: food. A wealth of scientific research underscores the urgency of substantially reducing meat and dairy consumption, which accounts for more than half of all food-related GHG emissions.

It is clear that the world cannot meet global greenhouse gas reduction targets without curbing consumption of animal products. High-meat eating nations like the United States, which consumes 2.6 times more meat than the global per capita average, must help shoulder this responsibility (emphasis added).

Since many cities and counties throughout the United States and elsewhere are adopting Climate Action Plans and looking into food security as part of climate adaptation planning, it is a good point of intersection on this issue.  The Plant-Powered Earthholder Sangha encourages member to engage with your local government and their climate planning process if that is something you can do.  This report can be a big help.

If you are interested in more information on how to do this, please email us.

SUMMARY FINDINGS OF MEAT OF THE MATTER

This report summarizes the compelling environmental and health reasons for transitioning institutional food purchases towards more plant-based foods.

Key findings include:

  • The production of meat and dairy generally has much higher greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based foods.
  • In order to fully account for their climate impacts, municipalities should consider upstream emissions — that is, the embedded emissions associated with the production of food purchased and served by the city or county.
  • Americans are overconsuming meat, which is contributing to heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and billions of dollars in health care costs associated with these maladies. The federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a maximum of 3.7 ounces of meat, poultry and eggs a day, which is significantly less than average U.S. consumption rates.
  • Water resources are at risk in our warming world hit by increasingly frequent and catastrophic natural disasters. Meat and dairy production has a harmful impact on water quality and uses substantially more water resources than plant-based foods.
  • As demonstrated by the Oakland Unified School District case study, shifting to plant-forward options can save valuable tax dollars since plant-based proteins are generally less expensive than meat.
  • Food waste is a substantial contributor to food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Serving more plant-based foods and smaller portions of meat and dairy will help cut waste from animal products, which account for an outsized portion of total emissions associated with food waste
  • Buying less conventionally produced meat can make it easier to afford third-party certified, sustainably produced food. Local and organic food, in particular, can have climate benefits. An array of third-party certifications has been endorsed by leading public interest groups.”

The report goes on to provides practical policy guidance for municipalities, broken down into six steps.   

 The report concludes:, cities and counties can make a meaningful impact — both locally and globally — by shifting their food purchases towards plant-based and plant-forward options. Whether these changes are made for health, environmental or cost-saving reasons, municipalities that serve less meat in their food service operations will experience a triple win for community well-being, local budgets and the planet.